“New Cases” Don’t Matter – Hospitalization Data Show No Indication of a Second Wave

“New Cases” Don’t Matter – Hospitalization Data Show No Indication of a Second Wave by Stephen C. Miller  for American Institute for Economic Research

TDC Note – All you hear about on corporate media are “new cases” of Wuhan bat-flu stew. New cases mean absolutely nothing – hospitalizations and deaths are the measure, not that someone has contracted Wuhan coronavirus. – Who cares about new cases, besides big pharma?

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Are we on the verge of a second wave of coronavirus infections? Is there a spike in infections in states that reopened first?

The only way to answer that question is to watch as the data roll in. Arguably the best data to look at to see if a second wave is beginning are the hospitalization numbers. The media frequently reports the biggest and most dramatic numbers, often devoid of context. The number of cases has been reported regularly since the early days of the pandemic, and yet we know that the number of cases can be misleading.

As more people are tested and re-tested for the virus, more results will come back positive, with the current number of confirmed cases exceeding 2 million in the U.S. But if we know anything, it is that increases in the number of confirmed cases do not accurately convey how quickly and widely the virus is spreading. Antibody tests and even the examination of sewage in some cities suggest that the number of infections is likely much higher than the number of confirmed cases.

But on the other side, some of the confirmed cases are double-counted in some states partly because both antibody and active virus tests are being counted separately but then combined in the total number of cases. While the antibody tests have been criticized for their false positive rate, another criticism has been that the antibody studies can underreport infection rates because they are not sensitive enough to detect a past mild infection.

Overall, because the bulk of testing is focused on people who are the sickest and who face the greatest exposure, it seems reasonable to conclude that the true number of U.S. infections is substantially higher than the reported figure. But an attempt to estimate the true number of infections would be little better than a guess.

And this presents a problem with the daily updates. To say that a particular state or city is seeing a “spike” in cases is to say that recently they have had an uptick in positive test results. That could be due to more testing and more ways of testing, or it could be a hint of growth in the infection rate.

Better Data are Available

Rather than focus on test results, i.e. “cases,” it would make more sense to focus on how the virus affects society and our institutions, particularly the strain the virus puts on health care facilities and health care providers. An obvious measure, tracked since the beginning of the pandemic, is the number of deaths. As I and others at AIER have noted, the number of deaths is hard to interpret without important context.

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